We heard from many people, “I just can’t take a sabbatical right now, but I wish I could or I really need to.” The reasons might include financial concerns, their job, their family, illness, or some other near term priority or obligation. So we talked to a number of people about how they have managed to take time off – be it a month, a two week vacation, or even a long weekend – that gave them some of the same benefits of a longer sabbatical.

We call these shorter periods of time off “mini-sabbaticals” and here are a few of the “lessons learned” about taking one from our own and others’ experiences:

  • Schedule time off – for vacations as well as long weekends and make them inviolate. (Americans take far fewer vacation days than their European and Australian counterparts.)
  • Unplug – alert people ahead of time that you are going “off-line” and unplug from your computer, Blackberry, phone, or any other device for the entire time you are off. Over and over we heard “you must disconnect from the office” or you really aren’t giving yourself the downtime you need.
  • Go somewhere else than your home or trade houses or apartments. It is all too easy to look around and see “projects” that need to be done at home. It doesn’t have to be an expensive hotel stay – there are many ways to find accommodations for free – just check the web for house trading or house sitting opportunities or make a deal with a friend.
  • If you go on a vacation, make it one where you stay in the same place/city the entire time instead of spending time checking in and out of hotels and traveling from place to place. Rent a house or trade yours for one abroad and take day trips instead. Build in downtime at the rental.
  • Make a list of things you’ve wanted to do or explore and never had the time to do and plan that into your time off. Be sure, however, to plan “downtime” as well, by leaving whole days or parts of days free and unscheduled.
  • Get your family’s “buy-in” and have them join you in doing this. The last thing you want is for them to “fill” your downtime with chores, “honey-dos” and other distractions.